Five outdated formalwear fashions for men

05 March 2015

At Hemingway Tailors, we’ve experienced countless shifting tailoring trends in the world of menswear. The styles, colours and patterns may change, but there’s one factor that remains static – the excellent fit of a bespoke, three-piece suit. It took hundreds of years of constant evolution for the three-piece suit to take the form that we know and love today. Throughout the last millennia, we’ve seen endless men’s fashions come and go. Formalwear is an area that has changed hugely over the last few hundred years, with many styles taking the western world by storm only to fall out of favour the following generation. Let’s take a look at some of the formalwear fashions that have long since become outdated…

 Ruffs

You’ll do well to find a lace collar on men’s clothes of any kind in the 21st century, but centuries ago you couldn’t get away from lace. Lace collars and cuffs were no longer enough – to be part of the sartorial and social elite from the mid 16th to mid 17th centuries, you needed to wear a ruff. These ruffles of fabric – worn around the neck – were favoured by men, women and children during the late Tudor and early Stuart periods. At their most extreme, ruffs were over a foot wide and had to be supported by a wire frame. Sure, they’d keep your neck warm, but we’re nevertheless glad that ruffs have been consigned to the history books.

 Spats

Spats were originally designed to be buttoned up around the ankles and worn over the shoes, in order to protect them from rain and mud. They quickly became far more than a practical garment, however, evolving into a stylish accessory that was associated with the fashion of the late Victorian era. Spats also became associated with wealth. Today, you’ll only find spats at military parades with marching bands.

 Top hats

You might occasionally spot a groom or best man donning a top hat at a wedding, but it’s fair to say that top hats have all but vanished from the standard formal outfit. They were worn by all classes throughout the Victorian era, but have come to be associated with wealth, the upper classes and magicians. The contemporary cousins of top hats – bowler hats – have faced a similarly swift decline.

 Frock coats

Frock coats were a mainstay of men’s fashion from the 18th century through the beginning of the 20th century, undergoing endless upgrades and changes as the years went by. They were the basis of military uniforms and were official court dress until the mid ‘30s. Frock coats were eventually usurped by morning coats – suits that had previously been seen as too informal to wear for formal occasions. George V signalled the end of the era of frock coats in 1926, when he wore a morning coat to the opening of a flower show.

 Wigs

Periwigs were the ridiculous, over-the-top constructions worn by society’s elite in the 16th and 17th centuries. Famously worn by Charles II, Samuel Pepys and pretty much every other upper class male during this time period, these wigs were initially used for a practical purpose – to tackle head lice. Wigs could be more easily deloused that natural hair. The aristocracy adopted this craze eagerly, wearing wigs to cover bald patches. We’re rather pleased that grandiose periwigs are no longer commonplace…

 Today, you need little more for the perfect formal outfit than a made-to-measure suit. Book an appointment with one of our tailors to get started. 

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